07/27/2011 12:24PM

Ex-Louisiana HBPA executive director Romero pleads guilty to conspiracy

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Mona Romero, who served as executive director of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association from 2005 to 2010, pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and identity fraud, according to a press release issued by the office of U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. Romero, who faces a maximum of five years in prison and/or $250,000 in fines, is to be sentenced Oct. 27.

Romero and Sean Alfortish, former president of the Louisiana HBPA, were charged in a 29-count indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury last November. Alfortish, who pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in December, is scheduled to begin his trial Sept. 6.

Romero, 53, “admitted that she and others conspired to rig the outcome of the 2008 HBPA election in which Alfortish was running for a second term of office,” according to the press release. “They sought to re-elect Alfortish as president and to elect new board members selected by Alfortish and Romero to replace certain members of the board who had questioned their management of the HBPA during Alfortish’s first term of office.”

Ballots had to bear a U.S. postmark and the Social Security number of eligible voters to be valid. Romero admitted that she and others used the Social Security numbers of some HBPA members without their knowledge and then flew to cities in Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, and Texas to mail the falsified ballots.

The indictment also alleged health-care fraud concerning payments made from the Louisiana Horsemen’s Medical Benefit trust account and a wire-fraud scheme tied to distribution of relief funds after Hurricane Katrina.

Alfortish, 43, also was employed by the Louisiana HBPA as its director of simulcasting and director of workers’ compensation. But after the indictment came down, the board of directors removed both Alfortish and Romero from their paid positions with the Louisiana HBPA.

A new Louisiana HBPA board election was held in March. The new president of the horsemen’s organization is Stanley Seelig, and the new first vice president is Arthur Morrell.